The date was June 28, 1979. Christine Mugridge ’83 and her parents were carefree with anticipation as they headed toward a national forest near the Oregon border. But they never got there. When a drunk driver careened into their car, her parents died instantly. Mugridge was pulled from the mangled mess by a highway patrol officer who wept. He couldn’t believe she lived.
“God gave my life to me,” she says, matter-of-fact. “But I never thought about it until I almost died. I knew then I had to give it back to Him.”
That fall Mugridge came to USD. The cross was everywhere she looked. And the cross, she vowed, would continue to infuse every part of her life.
Fast-forward 23 years. As she had so many times before, again Mugridge saw the cross. It was Nov. 20, 2002, and she was standing before Pope John Paul II.
She had kept her promise.
Not long after college, Mugridge gave up a glitzy Hollywood gig working with stars like Madonna, Sting and the Rolling Stones to do volunteer work for churches. She earned her master’s degree in theology and subsequently traveled as a missionary to 23 countries, including to Russia, where behind the Berlin Wall she prayed the rosary in a courtyard not far from a 70-year-old woman who told her, through tears, that she hadn’t prayed the rosary publicly for six decades.
“I realized the rosary reprented a power in my faith,” Mugridge says.
Now Mugridge lives in Rome, where she hosts a weekly radio show, “Rome to Home,” while earning her doctorate in theology. She started an organization, Sacred Arts Communications, to promote Catholicism. And she wrote an anthology, God’s Call to Women, about 12 women whose lives are living testimonies to God’s word. She also served as a consultant to Mel Gibson during the filming of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”
Clutching her book on that transcendent day in 2002, she approached the Pope and presented him with this manifestation of her faith. A lifetime of work culminated in that moment as she basked in the glow of stained glass and looked into his eyes.
“He cupped my face, caressed my cheek and blessed me,” Mugridge recalls. “He showed me, right then, the deeper meaning of being Catholic. It’s not about doing a small work or a great work. It’s about how you receive the person in front of you.” She pauses a moment, reflective. “I told myself, ‘Don’t forget this. This is real. This is what it’s all about.’”